Sheena Marie Sagrado Caramba, DPT, Class of 2020
What year did you graduate from UT Health San Antonio? What degree did you receive?
I graduated with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy in the summer of 2020 during the height of the pandemic in a Zoom ceremony, which was something I definitely will never forget!
What is your specialty?
I currently don’t have a specialty, but I am thinking of pursuing one in the future.
What inspired you to become a physical therapist?
I had an assignment in my wellness class in college that required me to interview a health care professional. At that time, I was part of a running group, and one of the ladies in the group was a pediatric physical therapist. She offered to take me in for one day and allow me to observe what a typical day was like for her in the pediatric therapy clinic. She worked with special needs children who had a variety of neurological diagnoses such as Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy that affected the way these children could move. After a few hours with her, I knew I had found my calling. I found an opportunity in which I could serve people and help them achieve things they wouldn’t think were possible because of their condition or illness. I could help people get their life back and do the things we take for granted, such as walking or even getting in and out of bed. That is what inspired me to begin my journey to becoming a PT and help make lives better!
What is your current occupation and where? What’s a day on the job like for you?
I currently work as a full-time physical therapist at a rehabilitation hospital in the northeast Houston area in both the inpatient unit and the outpatient clinic, serving a wide variety of patients and diagnoses (orthopedic, neurological, and cardiopulmonary). I mostly work in the inpatient unit and work on the outpatient side whenever the team needs extra help. Patients in the inpatient unit stay in the hospital for about two weeks and work with a multidisciplinary team consisting of physical, occupational, and speech therapists in order to reach functional goals and maximize their ability to perform activities of daily living.
A typical day on the job starts with me walking into the unit office at around 8 a.m. to get my list of patients for the day, usually four or five, and putting in my times to see them on our scheduling board. The scheduling board helps all the therapists on the team to see which patients are being seen, by which therapist and type of therapy, and how long their session is. I work with each of the patients for about an hour to an hour and a half in the rehab gym focusing on mobility needed for everyday life, such as walking with or without assistive devices, moving in bed, and transferring (for example, from the wheelchair to the car.) After I wrap up with all my patients, I finish up all my documentation for each of them and call it a day. That is usually how a typical day will look like unless I am needed on the outpatient side which means I’ll be working in the clinic with patients who are post-illness or post-surgery coming in for an hour session of physical therapy, working on their mobility related goals. The days always look different which helps keep me on my toes and challenges me to always be thinking critically of ways to help these patients get back to what they were able to do.
As a recent graduate, what is your experience in transitioning into the COVID workforce? How has UT Health prepared you for the current climate or challenges ahead?
I’ll be completely honest; graduating and job hunting in the middle of a pandemic was a struggle! These unprecedented times were something that no one could ever be prepared for. I truly believe that the quality of the education and the diversity of my clinical experiences I received at UT Health San Antonio helped me stand out as a candidate during the job search and has helped me become a flexible and adaptable PT, which has made me a valuable addition to the rehabilitation team.
What was the most valuable lesson – inside or outside the classroom – you learned at UT Health? Was there a lesson or message that stuck with you?
I had a clinical instructor and a few professors tell me, “Treat patients like you were treating a family member.” Moving forward in my career, that is one piece of advice I never want to forget. That phrase helps ground me, especially on the hard days of the job.
What is your greatest professional achievement? What are you most proud of?
My greatest professional achievement to date was the moment I found I had passed my national licensing examination and all the hard work from the past seven years had finally all come together!
What was your favorite or most memorable moment at UT Health (either in the PT program or in general)?
My favorite moment at UT Health was definitely our annual Physical Therapy Olympics that we hosted on our campus during a weekend in the spring semester. PT schools from all over the state of Texas come together to network and compete in a wide range of athletic events, such as sand volleyball, dance, basketball and so much more. The UT Health PT students got first place in the dance competition (which I was a part of) and that will forever go down as one of my favorite memories at UT Health.
What advice do you have for students that want to pursue physical therapy or health care in general?
The biggest piece of advice I have for students that want to pursue PT is to observe and shadow a wide variety of PT settings to see if PT is ultimately the profession you want to pursue. It would also be great for them to find a PT that can guide and mentor you throughout their professional journey. The journey is not easy and having someone who has already been in their shoes can provide them with the inspiration and encouragement they need.
How do you intend to give back and pay it forward to future students?
I intend to give back to future students by allowing myself to be a mentor and a guide for any student who is considering pursuing a career in PT. I want to be able to inspire the next generation of clinicians who want to help make lives better.
Is there anything you would like to add?
My years at UT Health have molded me into the clinician I am, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities that the institution has given me. I have found lifelong friends in my cohort and have made a network of connections with my professors and instructors who are truly passionate about advancing the profession and changing lives for the better, in students and in patients.